The vegetation dynamics of semi-arid and arid landscapes are temporally and spatially heterogeneous and subject to various disturbance regimes that act on decadal scales. Traditional field-based monitoring methods have failed to sample adequately in time and space in order to capture this heterogeneity and thus lack the spatial extent and the long-term continuous time series of data necessary to detect anomalous dynamics in landscape behavior. Time series of ecological indicators of land degradation that are collected synoptically from local to global spatial scales can be derived from the 33-year and continuing Landsat satellite archive. Consequently, a retrospective study was conducted on a commercially grazed sagebrush steppe dominated Utah landscape using a time series of standardized Landsat imagery for the period 1972 to 1997. The study had the objectives to (1) characterize and map the historical trends of a remotely-sensed index of vegetation response, a correlate of vegetation cover or phytomass, and (2) to retrospectively infer the cause of this response to historical records of grazing and wet and drought periods. A time series of dry season vegetation index maps were statistically clustered to generate a spatio-temporal map of three coarse trends of vegetation response, i.e., declining, stable, and increasing trends. This study showed that 71% of the landscape's locations had an increasing trend and 29% had a stable trend over the 26-year period. The increasing trend locations were positively correlated with site water balance [the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI)], i.e., vegetation response increased during wet periods and decreased during drought. The increasing trend was positively and negatively (non-linearly) correlated with grazing in individual paddocks from 1980 to 1997.
The hypothesis of niche differentiation with respect to resources is considered to be one of the most influential explanations for the maintenance of species diversity. The hypothesis has been examined extensively by testing its prediction of species-habitat association, which posits that the spatial distribution of species is highly correlated with environmental variables. However, we argue that widespread evidence of the species-habitat association lacks adequate rigor to justify the niche differentiation hypothesis. In this study, we tested whether and to what extent the observed species-habitat association could be caused by ecological processes other than niche differentiation, in a 20-ha subtropical forest plot. The niche differentiation hypothesis was evaluated by testing the species-habitat association and performing a cross-evaluation of the habitat-diversity expectation, which posits that a strong positive correlation exists between species diversity and habitat complexity. Failure to support the habitat-diversity expectation would at a minimum indicate that the niche differentiation hypothesis might not be the main underlying process of species distribution, despite prevalence of the species-habitat association in the same plot. Our analysis revealed that distributions of most species (86.11%) in the plot were significantly associated with at least one of eight topographical and soil nutrient variables. However, there was almost no significant positive correlation between species diversity and habitat complexity at various spatial scales in the same plot. The results indicate that additional caution is warranted when interpreting the species-habitat association from the niche differentiation perspective. A significant species-habitat association indicates only a species’ habitat preference. The association may reveal nothing about interspecific differences in habitat preference, which is a requirement of the niche differentiation hypothesis.
How are bryophyte alpha and beta diversities distributed across spatial scales along an elevational gradient in an oceanic island? Which mechanisms and drivers operate to shape them? Starting from a multiscale hierarchical sampling approach along an 1000 m elevational transect, we used additive diversity partitioning and null modeling to evaluate the contributions of the alpha and beta diversity components to overall bryophyte diversity in Terceira Island, Azores. Substrate-level diversity patterns were explored by means of the Sørensen Similarity Index and the Lloyd Index of Patchiness. Elevation-level beta diversity was decomposed into its replacement and richness differences components, with several environmental variables being evaluated as diversity predictors. Bryophyte diversity proved to be primarily due to beta diversity between elevation sites, followed by diversity among substrates. Compositional differences between neighboring sites decreased with elevation, being mainly caused by species replacement and correlating with differences in relative humidity and disturbance. At the substrate level, we found a great homogeneity in terms of species composition, coupled with a low substrate specialization rate. We conclude that, in Terceira’s native vegetation patches, regional processes, such as environmental gradients associated with elevation, play a greater role in shaping bryophyte diversity than local processes. Moister and less disturbed areas at mid-high elevation harbor a richer bryoflora, consistently more similar and stable between neighbouring sites. Simultaneously, the different substrates available are somewhat ecologically redundant, supporting few specialized species, pointing to these areas providing optimal habitat conditions for bryophytes. Our findings provide a better understanding of how bryophyte diversity is generated in Terceira Island, indicating that management and conservation measures should focus on island-level approaches, aiming to protect and rehabilitate additional natural vegetation patches at different elevations, especially in the severely disturbed lowlands.
The effects of stand structure, tree species composition, proportion of habitat types and land use history on breeding bird assemblages in temperate mixed forests in Western Hungary were studied. The species richness, the abundance and the composition of the whole breeding bird assemblage and of some groups formed on the basis of nesting site and rarity were examined. Stand structural variables had the highest impact on the breeding bird assemblage, while tree species composition, the varying proportion of vegetation types and land use history had no significant effect. In the case of the species richness, the abundance and the composition of the whole assemblage, the most important variables were the mean diameter of trees, the vegetation cover of the forest floor and the dead wood volume. The explained variance in the linear models of different groups varied between 20% and 60%, and the relative importance of these three variables also differed considerably. These results indicate that forest management may considerably influence the diversity and the composition of birds, as all the structural elements affecting birds deeply depend on it. Within the shelterwood management system, the elongation of the rotation and regeneration periods, and the relatively high proportion of retention tree groups after harvest could contribute to the conservation of forest birds. Our results also showed that for the forest bird communities, both the prevalence of big trees and the presence of a dense understory layer are important. Management regimes which apply continuous forest cover might be more appropriate for providing these structural elements simultaneously on small spatial scales, and for the maintenance of a more diverse bird community, thus healthier forest ecosystems.
Chase, J.M. and M.A. Leibold. 2002. Spatial scale dictates the productivity-biodiversity relationship. Nature 416: 427–430. Leibold M.A. Spatial scale dictates the productivity
319 Rescia, A.J. (1997): A fragmented landscape in northern Spain analysed at different spatial scales. Implication for management. J. of Vegetation science, 343–352
The comprehensive assessment of environmental gradients influencing species assemblages is important for implementing new conservation strategies under climate change. This study aims to determine the multi-scale effect of altitudinal and longitudinal gradients as drivers of richness and plant community assembly in mountain landscapes of Isla de los Estados (Argentina) to identify areas with greater conservation value in Southern Patagonia. We chose three fjords across the island that extends from West to East and we categorized landscapes into four ecosystem types according to their vegetation type (forests and open-lands) and elevation (lower lands, 0-100 m.a.s.l. and upper lands, 300-400 m.a.s.l.). Forest structure, soil cover (woody debris, rocky outcrop and bare soil) and vegetation cover (vascular and non-vascular), including richness and growthforms (trees, shrubs, prostrate and erect herbs, tussock and rhizomatous grasses, ferns and inferior plants) were measured in 60 sampling areas (3 fjords × 2 vegetation types × 2 elevations × 5 replicates). ANOVAs and multivariate methods were used to analyse heterogeneity in forest structure, plant richness, and life-form. In addition, species richness and the Simpson’s diversity index were calculated to understand plant assembly at multiple-scales (α, β and γ). Our results showed that environmental gradients (altitudinal and longitudinal) are more important drivers of change of ecosystem type than forest spatial structure. Furthermore, forest structure significantly varied with altitudinal and longitudinal gradients affecting most of the studied variables. A greater similarity (in richness and cover) between open-lands of lower and higher elevations was detected, as well as between forests. Fjords showed a West-East gradient, where the western and center fjords were more closely related to each other than to the eastern fjord. A multi-scale diversity approach may play central role in improving our understanding the main environmental drivers of richness and plant community assembly in these forests, both theoretical and empirical, and may be used to identify the spatial scale at which ecosystem types have greater conservation value. This study indicates that for southern forest conservation at regional level, efforts must cover all environmental gradients, including the different vegetation types to assure ful conservation of all the species assemblages.
Écoscience 7 101 110 Bellehumeur, C., Legendre, P. and Marcotte, D. 1997. Variance and spatial scales in a
Kneitel, J.M. and Chase, J.M. 2004. Trade-offs in community ecology: linking spatial scales and species coexistence. Ecol. Lett. 7: 69–80. Chase J.M. Trade-offs in community ecology
734 743 Gering, J.C., T.O. Crist and J.A. Veech. 2003. Additive partitioning of species diversity across multiple spatial scales: implication for regional conservation of